6.9/10
17,197
106 user 41 critic

Heaven Can Wait (1978)

A Los Angeles Rams quarterback, accidentally taken away from his body by an overanxious angel before he was meant to die, returns to life in the body of a recently murdered millionaire.

Writers:

Elaine May (screenplay), Warren Beatty (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Won 1 Oscar. Another 8 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Warren Beatty ... Joe Pendleton
Julie Christie ... Betty Logan
James Mason ... Mr. Jordan
Jack Warden ... Max Corkle
Charles Grodin ... Tony Abbott
Dyan Cannon ... Julia Farnsworth
Buck Henry ... The Escort
Vincent Gardenia ... Krim
Joseph Maher ... Sisk
Hamilton Camp ... Bentley
Arthur Malet ... Everett
Stephanie Faracy ... Corinne
Jeannie Linero Jeannie Linero ... Lavinia
Harry D.K. Wong Harry D.K. Wong ... Gardener
George J. Manos George J. Manos ... Security Guard
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Storyline

Joe Pendleton is a football quarterback preparing to lead his team to the Superbowl when he is almost killed in an accident. An overanxious angel plucks him to heaven only to discover that he was not ready to die, and that his body has been cremated. Another body must be found without his death being discovered, and that of a recently murdered millionaire is chosen. His wife and accountant, the murderers, are confused by this development, as he buys the Los Angeles Rams in order to once again quarterback them into the Superbowl. At the same time, he falls in love with an English environmental activist who disapproves of his policies and actions. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 June 1978 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El cielo puede esperar See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,652,486, 2 July 1978

Gross USA:

$81,640,278

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$81,640,278
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

James Gleason was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the role of Max Corkle for this movie's source original film Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941). This is the first time in Academy Awards history for a person to be nominated for a supporting Oscar for a role for which a different person would later also be nominated for a supporting Oscar: Jack Warden was nominated for Best Supporting Actor as Max Corkle in Heaven Can Wait (1978). See more »

Goofs

During the long scene at the wishing well, the wellhead alternates between being in sunshine and being in the shade. See more »

Quotes

Joe Pendleton: I'm not supposed to be here.
See more »


Soundtracks

Sonata No 3
By George Frideric Handel (as G.F. Handel)
Performed by Paul Brodie and Antonin Kubalek
Courtesy of Golden Crest Records
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Classic-Style Old-Fashioned Fantasy Film-making Reminiscent of the 1940's and 1950's
13 February 2010 | by classicalsteveSee all my reviews

Although made in the very late 1970's, "Heaven Can Wait" is really a throwback to a bygone era of fantasy film-making. Hollywood offerings such as "The Bishop's Wife" (where Carey Grant plays an angel), "Angels in the Outfield", "It's a Wonderful Life", and "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" (which is actually the inspiration behind "Heaven Can Wait") were innocent 100-minute escapist fair whose only mission was to entertain. Some modern offerings include "Mr Destiny", "Maid to Order", and the TV shows "The Flying Nun" and "Touched by an Angel". None of these kinds of films have much in the way of cutting social commentary or even ground-breaking cinematic techniques. However, their entertainment value is very high, being nothing but. "Heaven Can Wait" is this kind of a movie, maybe the perfect "chick flick" as it combines fantasy, football and even a little love story.

The story is relatively simple: Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty), a quarterback in the twilight of his career, feels destined to make it to the Superbowl. The LA Rams, his team, are in the playoffs. One day during early-morning training after consuming his liver-and-whey shake, he bicycles into a tunnel where two large vehicles taking both lanes are charging from the other direction of the tunnel. Looks like Pendleton will be playing in a Superbowl coached by Vince Lombardi with George "The Gipper" Gipp as one of his teammates. The next thing he knows, he's jogging among clouds with an escort (played by writer-director Buck Henry who also played the hotel attendant in "The Graduate") in a suit and tie trying to get him to stop running around. Pendleton is still in his athletic clothes sporting a soprano saxophone and doing push-ups among the fluffy billows. He doesn't quite realize he's died. Or has he? Turns out the escort made a mistake: Pendleton would have survived, perhaps avoided, the collision, but the escort nabbed him from his body before the resolution of the event, relying on "probability and outcome", a recurring theme of the movie. Pendleton was not due for many decades.

His case is taken up by Mr Jordan (James Mason in one of his later roles) a kind of heavenly supervisor who apparently coordinates peoples' souls. Realizing the mistake, Jordan takes Pendleton back to earth to find him a new body so he can live out the rest of his life as he was meant to. The only one available is the body of millionaire Leo Farnsworth who has just been murdered care of his estranged wife and personal assistant, played brilliantly by Dyan Cannon and Charles Grodin. One of the best scenes is when Pendleton reappears as Farnsworth, and Cannon nearly has a conniption. Pendleton, now as stuffy gazillionaire Farnsworth, must forge a way to get back to the Rams in time for the Superbowl.

The aspect that saves this film from falling too far into sentimental gush or absolute unbelievability is the quality of the acting of the leads (particularly Warren Beatty, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon, Julie Christie, James Mason, and Jack Warden as Max, the Rams' trainer) coupled with a fine screenplay. Everything is believable. Certainly the whole concept is just about as far-fetched as the Land of Oz, but you never contemplate that possibility for a moment. For some reason, everything works, and you run with it, not unlike "It's a Wonderful Life". As silly and fantastical as it is, the trip is well worth it.


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